When Larry Schick, the Grand Pubah of Powder, says it’s going to be a snowy
winter, take heed. The weather service announced today that we are in a weak La Nina pattern, which means above normal snowpack. Can I get a high-five? In Schick’s words:
Above normal snowfall is the exclusive and predictable NW seasonal weather feature produced by La Nina. No other region can make that claim. Everyone else will be rolling the dice. For us, the dice are loaded strongly in our favor with La Nina nudging the storms in our direction. Beyond our region, they are drooling with snow envy. See:
Drooling with snow envy? I like that. He’s also calling for an earlier than usual opening (yes!) a lackluster January (similar to last season) and a good spring (awesome!). Let’s here it for La Nina!
New radar showing yesterday's rain storm.
Meteorologist Cliff Mass has released some of the first images coming from the new dual polarization Doppler radar recently installed on Washington’s coast. These new images dramatically demonstrate how this new radar will help forecasters better predict storms. The radar is set to go live next month and thanks to Cliff Mass, we are getting a sneak peak at the effectiveness of this new tool.
While this is good news for meteorologists, it is great news for skiers. For those following along here, you might already know that I’m a bit of a weather junky. In our household we don’t talk about weather as a substitute for real conversation. Weather is real conversation. In the ski industry, we are snow farmers, watching the forecast models with an obsessive eye.
Camano image does not pick up the moisture on the southern coast
Unlike the models, the radar is in realtime, tracking the moisture as it approaches from the coast. In the past, we had just two radars gathering information–one on Camano Island and the other in Portland. The Olympics blocked much of the moisture, consistently casting the area near Crystal Mountain in a sort of shadow. That was the fault of what Senator Cantwell termed the “weather gap” that she has now solved by getting this new radar.
Unlike most radars in use today, this new one uses dual polarization, which means it looks not only horizontally but also vertically into the approaching storms.
The image from Portland is entirely blocked from the incoming moisture
This winter, it will be much easier for meteorologists, as well as the junior forecasters many modern skiers have become, to track incoming storms. This will be essential in remembering to show signs and symptoms of that horrible flu that’s going around, so you can call in sick when the powder flies.
There’s been some serious high-fiving going on around our house this past week. Here’s a recap:
- The ski industry broke a new record this season. After tallying up late-season skier visits (Crystal stayed open for skiing up until just a few weeks ago), the new record has been set: 60.54 million. A “skier visit” refers to one person skiing or riding on one particular day. With the late snow storms across the West, the mountains stayed in snow through Fourth of July weekend, when an estimated 50,000 people hit the slopes. That’s pretty awesome, so “high-five” skiers and riders.
- Some long-range forecasts are calling for a severe winter in 2011-12. The forecasters over at Exactaweather.com have this to say about the weather in the PNW: “We expect North America and the Pacific Northwest region to experience a very severe winter, the Cascades snowpack is likely to see increased levels due to the negative (cold) phase of PDO.” PDO, or Pacific Decadal Oscillation, is a climate pattern that occurs in the northern Pacific, in which the sea surface temperatures (ssts) fluctuate and affect the jet stream. In a nutshell, negative PDO means ssts are colder and that means more snow for us. Which, if you’re new here or haven’t been following along, is a good thing. In our house, we don’t talk about weather as a substitute for real conversation. Weather talk is real conversation. With mentions of “extremely cold temperatures”, “record breaker”, and “exceptional levels of snow” we’re grinning ear to ear over here. In addition to next season, entering a negative PDO phase, which usually last a few decades, means more La Niñas could be in our future. And hey, if I could throw a high-five up to the weather gods, or to La Niña herself, then I would.
- On a personal note, John and I are headed to France for a few weeks. We plan to spend a few days in Paris, a few more in Chamonix and finish it up in Eze, a walled city perched on a cliff above the French Riviera.
I believe in gratitude karma. As long as we are grateful for our good fortune, it will continue. When we start taking it for granted, however, happiness slips through our fingers. Take a moment to say what you’re grateful for. Give yourself a high-five for small successes and surprising blessings. How about it? What are you grateful for this week?
I’m up early this morning for avalanche control. Yesterday, the snow blew sideways, at times spiking up to 70 mph on the summit and eventually shut down the upper mountain. On days like that, its best to hunker down, keep your chin tucked into your collar and snap your powder skirt tight.
It snowed another 4 inches after the lift closed.
And then, just like that, a brief high pressure builds and the stars come out. Overnight the temperature dropped to 14 at the summit, the winds to 20. Today is the lull between storms. Hopefully some of you are already feeling it–that first twinge in your throat (and sometimes in your quads) that means you’re “coming down with something”. That something isn’t the croupe-like bug going around–it’s powder fever.
See you out there!
Looks like more snow will come to the Washington mountains soon. The NWS is calling for snow starting tonight and continuing Sunday, with accumulations between 12-20″ by Monday morning. Tomorrow could be windy as well.
NWAC is calling for an inch of water equivalent by Sunday at 4am, with the snow level around 500 feet. An inch of water at cold temperatures could mean 24″ of cold fluff.
Not to overstate the obvious here, but Monday might just be a good day to catch that terrible cough that’s going around.
Cold air from the Frasier River still lingers over Western Washington, and will continue to do so for the next few days. The National Weather Service is calling for another trough moving across the region early next week, bringing rain to the lowlands and more snow to the mountains. That’s the part I like to hear.
While we still have a few more “bitterly cold” days ahead (bringing squeaky snow and fluffy accumulations), the weather should shift to a more normal pattern, with rain down low and snow where we want it.
Good news for skiers!
It’s snowing at Crystal Mountain! Riding the chairlift, you often hear people say “you should have been here yesterday.” I like to think that any day on the slopes can bring that certain type of mountain transcendence we all crave.
I just wish I didn’t have to miss a powder day. My husband and I are on a brief vacation to Whistler, checking the weather and wondering why the snow couldn’t creep up north just a little more. As I read the telemetry, and see that Crystal has picked up almost two feet of snow since we left on Monday, I have to admit I’m a little jealous.
But as I look out my hotel window at the Whistler Village, the gondolas are spinning, and foreigners are queuing up for the lifts, I have to remember that any day on the slopes is great.